Lessons learned benefits projects of all sizes and complexities. Certainly, documenting valuable project experience gained creates a knowledge base for future similar projects. Even though its importance in project management is evident project teams often fail to complete this crucial exercise.
Documenting lessons learned is a process that enables project teams to record experience gained while executing a project. This process if implemented correctly also allows organisations to apply the knowledge from previous projects to new initiatives.
Hence, this blog post describes in brief various benefits of applying lessons learned in projects. Further, this post also enumerates importance of documenting valuable project management lessons.
Lessons Learned Definition
The Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) Sixth Edition defines lessons learned as:
The knowledge gained during a project which shows how project events were addressed or should be addressed in the future for the purpose of improving future performance
PMBOK 6th Edition Manage Project Knowledge Process
The Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) Sixth Edition has introduced a new process called “Manage Project Knowledge”. This new chiefly governs documenting lessons learned in projects.
Lessons learned register is a very important output of this process. Apart form other inputs the lessons learned register is also an input to this process.
In fact this new process is part of the Executing Process Group and not Closing Process Group. Moreover, manage project knowledge is one of the process of Project Integration Management Knowledge Area. Moreover, this new process further defines knowledge as being both explicit and tacit.
The 10 Significant Lessons Learned Benefits
#1 Lessons Learned Benefit: A lessons learned document indicates project success and failures. Lessons learned statement clearly specifies reasons for project success and failures. Project teams can record factors that contributed to project success. This document also allows teams to assess reasons for project failures. Thus projects can replicate past success and prevent failure in future projects.
#2 Lessons Learned Benefits: Project learnings are a vital source of information to improve business processes and best practices.
#3 Lessons Learned Benefits: Documented learnings helps organisations learn form past mistakes and prevents repetition of same mistakes again.
#4 Lessons Learned Benefits: Application of past knowledge to new projects. This chiefly helps organisations to repeat success of one project to another.
#5 Lessons Learned Benefits: Applying lessons enables projects and organisations to improve profitability of business.
#6 Lessons Learned Benefits: The lessons learned process promotes a healthy culture of sharing knowledge with in organisation.
#7 Lessons Learned Benefits: The lessons learned process also allows project teams to generate new knowledge base for future implementation.
#8 Lessons Learned Benefits: Lessons learned documents also generates record of variances in schedule, scope, cost and risk management. Further, analysis of these variances helps to implement corrective and preventive actions. Applying knowledge gained in previous projects also helps to reduce project duration, improve cost estimates and streamline risk response planning.
#9 Lessons Learned Benefits: Referring to past experience prevents organisations to reinvent the wheel for future similar projects. Hence, this results in considerable savings of cost and time.
#10 Lessons Learned Benefits: Documented lessons provide feedback on project resources. It allows an organisation to know if the organisation has sufficient resource capabilities to deliver future similar projects. Therefore, it enables organisations to develop its project management capability.
Importance of Lessons Learned In Project Management
Lessons learned plays a vital role in success of a project. In fact, many experienced project managers and team members avoid documenting important learnings achieved in the project. Profitability of future projects suffer due to lack of such a knowledge base. As a result organisations suffer because they are unable to learn from their past mistakes.
Moreover, some organisations do mandate documenting lessons learned but do not have a well defined process in place. Apart from this few organisations also lack the capability to apply documented learnings for new projects.
Many believe that recording lessons is merely an exercise to generate a document while closing the project. But that isn’t true. In fact, project teams should document learnings and apply them in all stages of a project. Project teams should document lessons through out the lifecycle of the project.
Further, it is good practice to document learnings while closing a project or phase. Moreover, project manager should review previous learnings and apply them at the beginning of a new project or phase.
Documenting lessons without following a defined process and tools simply creates a record of learnings. This learning may or may not be shareable with others when they need. Also, when project manager intends to use such learnings it may be difficult to understand. An important attribute of lessons learned process is that it not only enables documentation but also promotes reuse of information.
Primarily the lessons learned process in project management enables organisations to create a culture of sharing knowledge. This process also promotes use of existing knowledge to achieve project goals and contribute to organisational learning.
Also read: Lessons Learned Register Example
Lessons learned process benefits both projects as well as performing organisations. However, the lessons learned process has some challenges such as;
- lack of commitment from both management and team members.
- non-availability of appropriate infrastructure to support the process.
- in ability to retrieve archived learnings for future use.
However, despite these challenges project teams should make sincere efforts to document learnings form each project. Project managers should also endeavour to assimilate past experience and apply them in new projects.